Sunday, September 18, 2011

And We Have A Latch!

Fantastic news! Linda was able to breastfeed Alicia for a bit today.

Since Alicia's moved up to the SBR she hasn't been eating as well, and so Linda and I were trying to find ways to help her eat better on her own. As we read through some of our resources we came across a possible solution - breastfeeding. According to our resources, breastfeeding is sometimes a lot easier for preemies because they can control the flow of milk. The reason Alicia's been having trouble with the bottle is because she hasn't quite gotten down the suck, swallow and breath coordination yet. With bottles, the milk continues to follow whether or not the child sucks or not, so babies need to learn how to use their tongue to stop the flow of milk so they can breathe or swallow. Imagine someone holding your mouth open and pouring liquid down your throat. You'd get exhausted trying to keep up with the flow. The benefit of breastfeeding is that if the child doesn't suck, the milk stops flowing. This gives them a chance to rest and swallow and breathe, so it's a lot easier to coordinate.

So today when we got to the visiting hours, we decided to approach our nurse about it. When Linda asked the nurse, she was quite obliging and said that she would help us to give it a try during our Kangaroo session today.

Around 11:00 after visiting hours were over, Linda got settled in the recliner and the nurse gently placed Alicia in her arms. After adjusting Alicia's head so that she was in the right position, they began to try feeding her. At first, Alicia seemed quite confused and didn't quite know what to do. The nurse squeezed a bit of milk out for Alicia to taste, and she kept talking to her explaining what this foreign object was that we were placing in her mouth. Unfortunately at this time Alicia was more interested in sleeping than eating, so she didn't really latch on very well. The good news was that she hadn't rejected the experience. According to the nurse, some kids just don't like breastfeeding and will cry when introduced to the breast. But Alicia was OK. She suckled a bit, but went promptly to sleep. So we decided to just let her rest and try again later when she was hungry.

After sleeping deeply for about an hour and a half, Alicia awoke whimpering to be fed. So the nurse came over and we tried again. It took a bit for Alicia to figure out what was going on, but eventually she did latch on and start sucking. It was such a monumental moment. The three of us rejoiced at the sight and sound of Alicia eating. Linda and I both felt such a sense of accomplishment.

The thing is though, Alicia still hasn't learned yet that in breastfeeding she needs to suck in order to get the milk. Linda would squeeze some out by hand and give Alicia a taste, and she'd start sucking. Then Linda would try to let Alicia try to eat on her own, but she'd get tired and stop. Which would also stop the flow, and after a few moments of nothing, Alicia would start complaining because she wasn't getting any milk. So Linda would squeeze some more out and Alicia would once again latch on and start sucking. But when she stopped to rest, again nothing, and she'd cry again. After a few times of this, we could tell she was getting tired, so we decided to switch her back over to the bottle.

I guess this is what they call nipple confusion? But the nurse said that for the first time, what Linda and Alicia were able to accomplish today was actually really good. Alicia latched and suckled, and she didn't reject being fed by Mommy. So we're super thankful.

As I was watching Alicia feed however, the pastor in me couldn't help but think about how today's breastfeeding experience was actually quite a good illustration of how many of us are with God.

Through the whole experience, the three of us surrounded Alicia and encouraged her and cheered her on. She was completely safe. Also, the thing she craved so much, Linda's milk, was right there ready and available to her. All she needed to do a little bit of work and suck, and the milk that she so craved would be flowing down her throat. However, because it wasn't what she was used to, she kept complaining and crying. She wanted the milk, and it was just taking too much effort.

Funny thing is, once she gets used to it, it's going to be second nature. And it's not like we were withholding the good thing from her, we were actually trying to help her to get it in a better way.

I started to wonder how often in my own life did I have a longing or a craving that I keep begging God to fulfill. I cry and complain and I wail asking God to help me. And all the while the solution is right in front of my face, all I need to do is to reach out, put in a little bit of effort and what I long for will be mine. It's not like God is withholding anything from me, but he's trying to teach me to get it in a more permanent and better way. But because I don't get the results that I long for right away, I just give up and go back to wailing and complaining, even though all the while, what I want is right there in front of me.

And I am certain that just as Linda, the nurse and I were surrounding Alicia, the Holy Trinity is also surrounding me as I'm learning and trying. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are encouraging me to keep trying and to go for it, and to not to give up. And yet I get frustrated and give up.

When I first thought of this analogy, I thought that the lesson was for me to keep trying and to never give up. And that is true. If I give up, the prize may never become mine. However, as I think about it some more, the true lesson here is that struggle isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes as we learn how to do things, it's a challenge. But it's that challenge that helps us get stronger and better.

Alicia learning how to eat is a process. Me learning whatever it is I'm trying to learn how to do, that's a process too. Is God cruel and mean for making me work so hard? Are we cruel and mean to try to get Alicia to eat from the breast? Is it easier for Alicia to eat from the bottle? Maybe. But is that what's best for her in the long run? That's debatable.

I believe in the same way that we're trying to help Alicia grow and mature by challenging her to learn how to breastfeed. God does the same with us. He challenges us to grow and mature. He gives us situations that are a bit harder and not as comfortable. However, he doesn't do it out of cruelty but as a desire to help us grow and mature.

And at the same time he provides grace that makes room for our weaknesses and failures. When Alicia gave up on the breast, we didn't say, too bad, no more milk for you. No, we still fed her the rest of her milk through the bottle. In the same way, just because we aren't capable of doing something today, God doesn't say, "OK, too bad. You'll starve." No, he still provides, he still takes care of us. But this doesn't mean he's not going to ask us to try again tomorrow.

So just as my daughter is learning to persevere in eating, I'm also learning how to persevere in many ways. God is a good God, and a good Father. He pushes us so that we will grow, but he also knows how much we can handle. And when we feel like we've had enough, he's right there beside us to comfort and reassure us.

Life lessons from a 3-month-old. Gotta love it.


  1. Wow, I've never heard a breastfeeding analogy like that. It's not often you read "breast" and "Trinity" in the same paragraph. I imagine this analogy/word picture may not work for some people, but I LOVED it! Thanks, Cam, for sharing your thoughts about this. And yay, for a good first experience for Linda and Alicia!

  2. I just commented in the future! (since your blog is on Taiwan time)